Coping to What End?: Core Belief Disruption and Posttraumatic Growth During COVID-19

Main Article Content

Whitney Dominick, PhD Taylor Elam


The pandemic caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus disrupted life globally, leading to a disruption of core beliefs, the need for coping strategies, and the possibility of posttraumatic growth, the positive psychological change that may occur after a stressful or traumatic event. This study followed 201 participants from the United States (Mage: 35.39, SD: 14.60) at four time points over the first year of the pandemic. Core belief disruption, the use of coping strategies, and posttraumatic growth were assessed in March 2020 (T1), April 2020 (T2), September 2020 (T3), and April 2021 (T4). From T1 to T4, core belief disruption significantly increased, and the use of most coping strategies decreased, but overall posttraumatic growth did not change. However, posttraumatic growth at all four time points was predicted by higher levels of core belief disruption, although which coping strategies predicted core belief disruption and posttraumatic growth varied based on the time of assessment and whether analyses were cross-sectional or longitudinal. Overall, the avoidant coping strategy of substance use was most frequently associated with core belief disruption, followed by the emotion-focused strategies of acceptance, self-blame, and religion. Interestingly, each problem-focused coping strategy was predictive of core belief disruption at one time point cross-sectionally, but no problem-focused coping strategy predicted core belief disruption longitudinally. Alternatively, the problem-focused coping strategies of active coping and positive reframing were the most frequent predictors of posttraumatic growth, while 50% of avoidant and emotion-focused coping strategies, such as self-distraction, denial, emotional support, and venting, were not associated with posttraumatic growth at any time point. These results indicate that participants were flexible with the use of coping strategies based on the circumstances at the time. Additionally, the coping strategies that primarily predict core belief disruption differ from the coping strategies that primarily predict posttraumatic growth. These findings highlight the coping strategies that should be avoided since they may contribute primarily to core belief disruption and encourage the use of coping strategies that may promote psychological growth following traumatic events.

Keywords: core belief disruption, coping, posttraumatic growth, COVID-19

Article Details

How to Cite
DOMINICK, Whitney; ELAM, Taylor. Coping to What End?: Core Belief Disruption and Posttraumatic Growth During COVID-19. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 1, jan. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 02 apr. 2023. doi:
Research Articles


1. Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912-920.
2. Sohrabi, C., Alsafi, Z., O'neill, N., Khan, M., Kerwan, A., Al-Jabir, A., Iosifidis, C., & Agha, R. (2020). World Health Organization declares global emergency: A review of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). International Journal of Surgery, 76, 71-76.
3. Carver, Charles S. (1997). You want to measure coping but your protocol's too long: Consider the Brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(1), 92-100.
4. Norris, F. H., Friedman, M. J., Watson, P. J., Byrne, C. M., Diaz, E., & Kaniasty, K. (2002). 60,000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981–2001. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 65(3), 207–239.
5. Skinner, E. A., Edge, K., Altman, J., & Sherwood, H. (2003). Searching for the structure of coping: A review and critique of category systems for classifying ways of coping. Psychological Bulletin, 129(2), 216–269.
6. Bellizzi, K. M., & Blank, T. O. (2006). Predicting posttraumatic growth in breast cancer survivors. Health Psychology: Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 25(1), 47–56.
7. Hulbert-Williams, N., Neal, R., Morrison, V., Hood, K., & Wilkinson, C. (2012). Anxiety, depression and quality of life after cancer diagnosis: What psychosocial variables best predict how patients adjust? Psycho-Oncology, 21(8), 857–867.
8. Krägeloh, C. U. (2011). A systematic review of studies using the Brief COPE: Religious coping in factor analyses. Religions, 2(3), 216–246.
9. Wang, A. W., Cheng, C., Chang, C., Chen, D., Chen, S., Shieh, V., Lo, A., & Hsu, W. (2018). Does the factor structure of the brief COPE fit different types of traumatic events? A test of measurement invariance. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 34(3), 162-173.
10. Taku, K., Cann, A., Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2015). Core beliefs shaken by an earthquake correlate with posttraumatic growth. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(6), 563.
11. Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2006). “the foundations of posttraumatic growth: an expanded framework,” in Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth: Research & Practice, eds L. G. Calhoun, and R. G. Tedeschi (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers), 3–23.
12. Tedeschi, R.G., & Calhoun, L.G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma., Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(3), 455-471.
13. Dominick, W. (2022). Changes in posttraumatic growth, core belief disruption, and social support over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 6389.
14. Chasson, M., Taubman - Ben-Ari, O., & Abu-Sharkia, S. (2022). Posttraumatic growth in the wake of COVID-19 among Jewish and Arab pregnant women in Israel. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 14(8), 1324–1332.
15. pan Cui, P., pan Wang, P., Wang, K., Ping, Z., Wang, P., & Chen, C. (2021). Post-traumatic growth and influencing factors among frontline nurses fighting against COVID-19. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 78(2), 129-135.
16. Sun, W., Chen, W. T., Zhang, Q., Ma, S., Huang, F., Zhang, L., & Lu, H. (2021). Post-traumatic growth experiences among COVID-19 confirmed cases in China: A qualitative study. Clinical Nursing Research, 30(7), 1079-1087.
17. Ramos, C., & Leal, I. P. (2013). Posttraumatic growth in the aftermath of trauma: A literature review about related factors and application contexts. Psychology, Community & Health, 2, 43-54. http:/
18. Gerber, M. M., Boals, A., & Schuettler, D. (2011). The unique contributions of positive and negative religious coping to posttraumatic growth and PTSD. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3(4), 298.
19. Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2004). Positive change following trauma and adversity: A review. Journal of traumatic Stress: Official Publication of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 17(1), 11-21.
20. Cordova, M. J., Cunningham, L. L., Carlson, C. R., & Andrykowski, M. A. (2001). Posttraumatic growth following breast cancer: a controlled comparison study. Health Psychology, 20(3), 176.
21. Karanci, A. N., & Erkam, A. (2007). Variables related to stress‐related growth among Turkish breast cancer patients. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 23(5), 315-322.
22. Lelorain, S., Bonnaud-Antignac, A., & Florin, A. (2010). Long term posttraumatic growth after breast cancer: prevalence, predictors and relationships with psychological health. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 17(1), 14-22.
23. Scrignaro, M., Barni, S., & Magrin, M. E. (2011). The combined contribution of social support and coping strategies in predicting post‐traumatic growth: A longitudinal study on cancer patients. Psycho‐oncology, 20(8), 823-831.
24. Thombre, A., Sherman, A. C., & Simonton, S. (2010). Religious coping and posttraumatic growth among family caregivers of cancer patients in India. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 28(2), 173-188.
25. Park, C. L., Cohen, L. H., & Murch, R. L. (1996). Assessment and prediction of stress‐related growth. Journal of Personality, 64(1), 71-105.
26. Wild, N. D., & Paivio, S. C. (2004). Psychological adjustment, coping, and emotion regulation as predictors of posttraumatic growth. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 8(4), 97-122.
27. Wolchik, S. A., Coxe, S., Tein, J. Y., Sandler, I. N., & Ayers, T. S. (2009). Six-year longitudinal predictors of posttraumatic growth in parentally bereaved adolescents and young adults. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 58(2), 107-128.
28. Prati, G., & Pietrantoni, L. (2008). Optimism, social support, and coping strategies as factors contributing to posttraumatic growth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Loss Trauma, 14(5), 364–388.
29. Helgeson, V. S., Reynolds, K. A., & Tomich, P. L. (2006). A meta-analytic review of benefit finding and growth. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(5), 797-816.
30. Brooks, M., Graham-Kevan, N., Robinson, S., & Lowe, M. (2019). Trauma characteristics and posttraumatic growth: The mediating role of avoidance coping, intrusive thoughts, and social support. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 11(2), 232–238.
31. Stump, M. J., & Smith, J. E. (2008). The relationship between posttraumatic growth and substance use in homeless women with histories of traumatic experience. American Journal on Addictions, 17(6), 478-487.
32. Ullman, S. E. (2014). Correlates of posttraumatic growth in adult sexual assault victims. Traumatology, 20(3), 219.
33. Ye, Z., Chen, L., & Lin, D. (2018). The relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and posttraumatic growth among HIV-infected men who have sex with men in Beijing, China: The mediating roles of coping strategies. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1787.
34. Kalaitzaki, A., & Rovithis, M. (2021). Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious posttraumatic growth in healthcare workers during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Greece: The role of resilience and coping strategies. Psychiatriki 32(1), 19–25.
35. London, M. J., Mercer, M. C., & Lilly, M. M. (2020). Considering the impact of early trauma on coping and pathology to predict posttraumatic growth among 9-1-1 Telecommunicators. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(21-22), 4709-4731.
36. Cohen, O., & Katz, M. (2015). Grief and growth of bereaved siblings as related to attachment style and flexibility. Death Studies, 39(3), 158-164.
37. Kunz, S., Joseph, S., Geyh, S., & Peter, C. (2018). Coping and posttraumatic growth: A longitudinal comparison of two alternative views. Rehabilitation Psychology, 63(2), 240.
38. Cann, A., Calhoun, L. G., Tedeschi, R. G., Kilmer, R. P., Gil-Rivas, V., Vishnevsky, T, & Danhauer, S. C. (2010). The Core Beliefs Inventory: A brief measure of disruption in the assumptive world. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23(1), 19-34.
39. Tedeschi, R. G., Cann, A., Taku, K., Senol-Durak, E., & Calhoun, L. G. (2017). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: A Revision Integrating Existential and Spiritual Change. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(1), 11–18.
40. Gray, D. E. (2006). Coping over time: The parents of children with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50(12), 970-976.
41. Tomberg, T., Toomela, A., Ennok, M, & Tikk, A. (2007). Changes in coping strategies, social support, optimism and health-related quality of life following traumatic brain injury: A longitudinal study. Brain Injury, 21(5), 479-488.
42. Culver, J. L., Arena, P., Antoni, M, H., & Carver, C. S. (2002). Coping and distress among women under treatment for early stage breast cancer: Comparing African Americans, Hispanics, and Non-Hispanic Whites. Psycho-Oncology, 11(6), 495-504.
43. Hamama‐Raz, Y., Pat‐Horenczyk, R., Roziner, I., Perry, S., & Stemmer, S. M. (2019). Can posttraumatic growth after breast cancer promote positive coping?—A cross‐lagged study. Psycho‐oncology, 28(4), 767-774.
44. Tedeschi, R. G., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Taku, K., & Calhoun, L. G. (2017). Posttraumatic growth: Theory, research, and applications. NY and London: Routledge